Truth in making a match

Q: Is there a need to relate to a young man that the woman I am suggesting for him to date for the purpose of marriage takes anti-depressant pills? If there is an obligation, who should relate it?
A: This is the general principle: a severe matter must be related and if it is not, it is deception, but an unimportant matter need not be related. An unimportant matter is what is brought in the Gemara in Yevamot (45a): A person has a non-Jewish father and a Jewish mother, he is Jewish and there is therefore no obligation to tell. Depression is severe in that it can ruin a marriage. But it depends: if she takes pills and thus does not suffer from depression, there is thus no depression. What is the difference if there is no depression on account of a natural process or on account of the pills? If the current state is stable and there is no risk of a future deterioration, there is no need to tell. But if there is a risk that the pills will not work properly and depression will return – a risk greater than a regular person to whom this can also occur – then there is an obligation to reveal it. Who should reveal it – the woman or the matchmaker? It does not matter. They should work it out and the person for whom it is most comfortable should tell him.

Learning about the Torah of Maran Ha-Rav Kook

Q: I am interested in learning and understanding the Torah of Rav Kook. Is it possible to briefly define his Torah?
A: The Torah of Maran Ha-Rav Kook was defined by his son, our Rabbi Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, as "the Redeeming Torah," which is comprised of three parts: Torah, Redeeming, and the Redeeming Torah. 1. Torah – the Torah is what built the world. The Torah protects the individual and the Nation. It guides us in all situations. It is possible to see all circumstances and goals in it. 2. Redeeming – Maran Ha-Rav Kook understood that Hashem is redeeming His Nation: building the Land, allowing Jews to return to Israel, returning theTorah to Israel, etc… We see the revival of the Nation of Israel in its Land. 3. The Redeeming Torah – the revival of the Nation requires a soul and this is the Torah of Maran Ha-Rav Kook: the Divine guide for the Nation in its revival.

"Ma'aser Kesafim" for cat food

Q: My neighborhood (in Israel) has so many cats. They recently changed the garbage cans and the cats cannot open them. They are literally starving. It is permissible for me to buy them food with "ma'aser" money?
A: The huge amount of cats in Israel is a known problem. They are also a great benefit since – in their merit – there are hardly any mice and snakes. At the same time, we need to solve this problem and reduce their population by spreading chemicals in their food which will prevent reproduction. But "ma'aser" money is for the poor: first for poor Jews, then for non-Jews and only then for animals. Mercy for animals is certainly important but we must first be merciful to people. The proper order of concern is first people and then the cats.

Visiting Nazi Death Camps Forbidden

NOTE: This has been Rav Aviner's stated position for years.
See Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah vol. 3 #44 and Am Ve-Artzo vol. 2 #55

Rabbi Aviner in the News:Visiting Nazi Death Camps Forbidden
By Kobi Nahshoni – from 1 Adar 5769 –
www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3675990,00.html

Educational school trips to the Nazi death camps in Poland have become common among most Jewish sectors in Israel, but prominent Zionist Rabbi Shlomo Aviner recently claimed that they are in fact forbidden for halachic reasons, and urged schools to cancel them.

Answering a reader's question on the subject in the religious "Ma'ayaney Hayeshua" journal, Aviner stated that trips to Poland were "not good" due to the halachic ban on leaving Eretz Israel, and because they "provide livelihood to murderers."

In a conversation with Ynet, [Rav] Aviner explained: "As is well known, leaving Israel is permitted only for the sake of mitzvah, while visiting the death camps is not defined as a mitzvah by the Halacha. There are important figures and great rabbis who have not visited there.

"Clearly what happened in the Holocaust must be remembered, but this can be done using films, books, the Yad Vashem museum and there are even the testimonies of survivors who are still alive," he stated.

And what about the emotional experience?

"I once told educators that in any case the impression vanishes after six months, like any other emotional experience with a short shelf life. They smiled and said that it actually fades away after three weeks."

[Rav] Aviner also said that the trips have not been proven to have an "educational value." "For some this experience is very difficult and they come back utterly distraught," he added.

'Why should Nazi collaborators benefit?'
Another argument against visiting the camps, according to the rabbi, was the fact that the Polish people "collaborated with the Nazis" and were now making a living off of these visits. "I'm not busy holding a grudge against the Poles, but we shouldn't provide livelihood to people who allowed death camps to be built on their land and who are now making a profit out of it.

"They are not my friends and I don't want to support them."

According to [Rav] Aviner, it was not accidental that the Nazis chose to erect the extermination camps in Poland. "They knew that the people would do nothing. One person was enough to blow up the railroad tracks. Why wasn't this done? Because they all said, 'good,' smiled and waited for what needed to be done to be done by the Nazis.

"Many Jews who escaped from the camps were later murdered outside by the Polish resistance. When the Jews came back to the city their housees were inhabited and they faced a pogrom. To this day trials are being held against Poles who stole houses," he concluded.

The Beginning is Not the Deciding Factor

It does not matter how your marriage began: on the right foot, on the left foot or on both feet – what matters is how it progresses and how much you invest in it. Look at the different ways in which our foremothers were married: Sarah was Avraham's niece and ten years younger than him. They grew up together and completely knew each other before marrying. Rivka and Yitzchak were completed matched up. Eliezer received the authority to find a wife for Yitzchak based on his intellectual analysis. When Rivka saw Yitzchak for the first time, she was already his wife. Leah entered Yaakov's life without asking his opinion, similar to a forced marriage. And Rachel was love at first sight. But in marriage, the first sight is not the deciding factor, but the second, third and every daily sight. The advantage of the starting point can be wasted over nothing. And even someone who begins a race well-behind the starting line can catch up quickly if he exerts great effort. The deciding factor is not where you came from, but how you progress. This is true in many things in the world, and especially in marriage.

Our Rabbi and Eating - Part 3

Rabbenu Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook
Seudat Mitzvah
A student related: Our Rabbi was invited to a Seudat Mitzvah with my family. He responded affirmatively and came to participate in it. After they finished serving the main course, the hostess stood up and asked: "Would anyone like more?" No one responded, but our Rabbi spoke up and said: "Please, I would like more." After the hostess joyously served Ha-Rav, and they gave Divrei Torah, the hostess again asked if anyone would like more. Again, no one responded to her proposal, and again our Rabbi spoke up and said: "If it is possible, please, I am interested..." We were somewhat confused, we could not understand how Ha-Rav could eat this amount. Ha-Gaon Rabbi Shalom Natan Ra’anan (Ha-Rav's brother-in-law) stood up, came over to me and whispered to me: "Please tell the hostess not to propose an additional portion, since if she asks ten times, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah will not refuse. For a Seudat Mitzvah, he will never refuse..." (From the book "Berito Le-hodi’am" of Rav Yitzchak Dadon, p. 115)

At a Seudat Mitzvah, such as a Brit Milah, our Rabbi would eat with as quickly as he could, because then there is a mitzvah to eat.

It once happened that students found his sister, Ha-Rabbanit Bayta Miriam, crying: "Yesterday Reb Tzvi Yehudah participated in three Seudot Mitzvah in which he ate meat, now he will fast for a week!"
A student asked after a Seudat Mitzvah: "From where do you get the strength to eat so much?" Our Rabbi replied: "We receive the strength from the mitzvah."

Meal-time etiquette
The meal time was a great class for his students. Our Rabbi did not bend over the soup as most people do. He would bring the spoon up to himself while sitting in an upright position, since a person does not need to bend to the food, but conversely, to raise the food up to him.

Our Rabbi was very particular not to begin eating as along as all of those present had not received their food.
When our Rabbi sat down to eat, and another person sat with him, he was also concerned that he would eat.

When a married couple ate at his table, he would give the man "a double portion" and point out with a smile: "You are obligated to provide her food!" And sometimes we even acted this way with an engaged couple, and he would say to the young man: "You will soon be obligated to provide her food..."

Our Rabbi was once drinking tea and a student asked him a question and he only answered him after finishing the tea. When the student asked our Rabbi about it, he explained that the whole thing about drinking tea is drinking it when it is hot. If it cools off, it is "Ba'al Tashchit" (wanton waste), and it was therefore preferable to finish drinking first. (Ha-Rav Reuven Hiller)

Our Rabbi and his striingencies regarding eating
The "Divrei Avraham" - Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Rabbi Avraham Dov Ber Shapira of Kovno - participated in a gathering of "Agudat Yisrael," and since our Rabbi had a great desire to meet him, he came to the hotel where he was staying. They had a lengthy conversation, but when it came time for lunch, our Rabbi moved to the side to eat bread and honey. This is how he acted during his travels in order to avoid kashrut problems [since any additional ingredients in honey ruin its taste and are noticeable]. The "Divrei Avraham" invited him a few times to join the others, but he declined, and then the "Divrei Avraham" understood: "His honor simply has special stringencies regarding eating." Our Rabbi then resolved: "My thought was not to act this way in the presence of a great man" (See Ketubot 63a where Ben Kalba Shavua vowed that his daughter would not benefit from his property after she became engaged to the unlearned Rabbi Akiva. He later wanted to annul his vow and heard that a rabbi had come to town. The Rabbi asked him, "Did you intend to make your vow even in the case that he would be a great man?" Ben Kalba Shavua said, "No, even if he had learned a little I would not have vowed." Rabbi Akiva then revealed to him that he was his son-in-law). Our Rabbi then established three general rules for himself: 1. All of his special practices regarding eating would be nullified in the presence of a great man who asked him to eat. 2. And similarly, when he was a guest of other people. 3. And even when people were his guests.

Beit Shammai in the Future

Question: I have heard that in the times of the Messiah, the Halachah will not follow Beit Hillel as we do now (Berachot 36b, Beitza 11b and Yevamot 9a), but it will follow Beit Shammai. Why?
Answer: This idea is written in the works of the later Kabbalists, but it does not appear in the Gemara or in the Zohar. Nonetheless, we must understand that Beit Shammai discusses the world in the future in which our world will have a reality more appropriate to the stringent positions of Beit Shammai. Beit Hillel intended positions more compatible to our current world.

Shut SMS #10

Q: Is it really forbidden to smoke?
A: It is an extremely severe prohibition. Every year in Israel, 10,000 people die from smoking and 200,000 are sick from it.
Q: Is it permissible to listen to non-Hebrew and secular songs?
A: There are three conditions: 1. Kosher words (Rambam on Pirkei Avot 1:17). 2. A kosher tune that does not stir up base urges (Rambam, Igrot p. 428). 3. A kosher musician (see Shut Igrot Moshe, Even Ha-Ezer 1:96). If he is Jewish – he follows the Shulchan Aruch. If he is not Jewish – he observes the seven mitzvot of Bnei Noach.
Q: Is it permissible to write B"H (Baruch Hashem – in Hebrew) on the top of a paper or should I write BS"D (in Aramaic)?
A: B"H is permissible. It is an abbreviation and may therefore be thrown in the garbage.
Q: Someone pointed out to me in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei that I was facing the wrong direction. Can I move?
A: Yes, moving for a good reason is permissible.
Q: What is the Torah source for the prohibition of touching the opposite gender?
A: "Do not approach" (Vayikra 18:6) and explained in Sefer Ha-Chinuch #188.
Q: Is it worthwhile to go into the field of media communications?
A: Yes, it can be a source for a positive influence. It must obviously be a kosher position and performed with integrity.
Q: If I enter the bathroom to get something, do I need to wash "netilat yadayim"?
A: In the bathrooms of our time, which are clean, it is permissible to be lenient. Sha'arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halachah.
Q: I have homosexual tendencies. What should I do?
A: [In Israel] turn to "Atzat Nefesh" which is a free, anonymous helpline established for this purpose. Phone #: 02-654-1899 on Mon/Wed/Thurs. www.Atzat-nefesh.org
Q: Is it permissible for a girl to wear a nose ring?
A: It is forbidden because of following the ways of the non-Jews (Chukot Ha-Goyim).
Q: But Rivka had a nose ring?
A: This type of "Chukot Ha-Goyim" is based on the reality of the time in which one lives.
Q: Is it permissible to daven barefoot as they use to do?
A: It is forbidden. One must be dressed as standing before a king. They used to stand this way before a king.
Q: Can I take vitamins which do not have kosher supervision?
A: Any medicine which lacks taste is kosher, including for Pesach.
Q: I woke up late, how should I daven?
A: You can daven – after the fact – until noon, reciting all of the prayers as you normally would.
Q: And if I wake up after noon?
A: The morning blessings, Tefillin and then daven Minchah twice.
Q: Is it okay to leave Israel to visit Poland?
A: It is not okay. 1. It is forbidden to leave Israel (except under specific circumstances). 2. It is giving money to murderers.

The Eternal Halachah…

[From "Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah" – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: It seems like there are Rabbinic decrees that are no longer relevant, and their rationale has already ceased to hold true. For example, “Mayim Acharonim - washing one’s hands at the end of the meal" was enacted due to the prevalence of salt from Sedom, which could cause blindness, but now that salt is no longer prevalent. So why continue washing “Mayim Acharonim”?
Answer: Indeed, sometimes there is a Rabbinic decree whose status as binding depends on its rationale continuing to hold true. Regarding "Mayim Acharonim," Tosafot (Berachot 52) wrote, “We, however, amongst whom Sodom salt is uncommon, are unaccustomed to washing after the meal,” and the Shulchan Aruch wrote the same thing (Orach Chaim 181:10). We have a rule that if our Sages enacted a decree based on a vote in which the majority quorum prevailed, then even if the rationale behind it has ceased to apply, it still requires a majority quorum of Sages to nullify it, and it does not become null by itself (Beitzah 5a). Yet if, a priori, the decree was only enacted in specific locales where the reason for the decree is relevant, then even in a place where that decree was enacted, if the rationale disappears, the decree becomes null by itself. Pri Chadash therefore wrote that we are unaccustomed to washing "Mayim Acharonim" after the meal, for salt from Sedom is not common among us. Even though it was originally enacted by a majority quorum, another majority quorum is not required to nullify it, because salt from Sedom is not common everywhere, and the original decree was only meant to apply in a place where the danger was present (Yoreh Deah 116:1).
All the same, many of the Acharonim (later authorities) hold that even in our own times we should wash "Mayim Acharonim" because another reason applies, that “dirty hands disqualify one from reciting a blessing… ‘Be holy’ (Vayikra 19:2) – this teaches us about 'Mayim Acharonim' (Berachot 53a). This law applies, obviously, not just regarding the blessing after meals, but regarding someone who eats a piece of fruit at the end of the meal and recites a blessing before it, and his hands are not clean (Orach Chaim 181, Mishnah Berurah #23). Yet there are people who eat with a fork and knife and do not touch their food. According to what precedes, they should not have to wash "Mayim Acharonim" (Responsa Mor U’Ktzia). Yet the Acharonim still reinforced this ordinance, mentioning that there is also a rationale based on the mystical tradition mentioned in the Zohar (quoted in Orach Chaim 181, Mishnah Berurah #22, in the name of many authorities). In other words, when our Sages enact an ordinance or a decree, they do not always reveal all their reasons. Yet if someone refuses to conduct himself according to the mystical tradition, arguing that laws based on the secrets of the Torah do not bind him, we can argue against him by saying “Lo Pelug” – we do not distinguish between different types of rationales. Or, in modern terms, we “generalize.” When our Sages enacted a decree, they did not wish to go into infinite detail about when it is binding and when not. Rather, they fixed simple rules in order not to confuse people with complex deliberations about every case. It is true that according to this, an enactment will probably apply even in cases where it is irrelevant, yet that is a negligible burden compared to the need to judge each instance per se. We should not have to make certain in each instance whether or not the ingredients of the salt have changed, or especially, to examine to see if our hands are clean or not, including the question of just how clean our hands have to be. This way, we do not have to sit at the end of every meal pondering our fingers. Moreover, Rambam explains that the same rule applies regarding Torah law as well. The Torah itself has a general situation in mind, and not exceptions, and we cannot make the Torah fit every individual in accordance with the data applying to him. Otherwise, “the Torah would be given over to measurements” (Shabbat 35b), it would be only relatively and not absolutely binding. We cannot make mitzvot suit the changes undergone by individuals and the times the way medicine does. Rather, the Torah’s laws must be absolute and far-reaching. As it says, “There shall be one law for the entire congregation” (Bemidbar 15:15; Guide to the Perplexed 3:34). Rabbi Shem Tov ben Shem Tov in his commentary there states that the same applies regarding the laws of nature. For example, Rain represents an enormous kindness for the human race, but sometimes too much rain can cause damage. G-d’s calculation relates to people in the aggregate and not to the individual, and out of this calculation the individual benefits as well – even if sometimes it hurts him.

Book Dedication Opportunities

Within the next year, Rav Aviner is set to publish many works in Hebrew on various topics.
You can be a partner in these projects by dedicating a book or part of a book in memory or in honor of someone (and payment can be made over time). Please be in touch with Rav Aviner or me if you are interested. Here is a list of the books:
1. Shut She'eilat Shlomo vol. 4 –
Q&A on subjects spanning all areas of Halachah
2. Commentary on the Siddur
This is the first of three volumes
3. Shemirat Ha-Lashon (Guarding One's Tongue)
Articles on permissible and forbidden speech
4. Musar Avicha
Commentary on Rav Kook's work
5. Tanchumim (Words of Comfort)
Short work on mourning and difficult times
6. Limrot Ha-Kol (Despite Everything)
Collection of children's stories with teaching points

Maran Ha-Rav Kook and Vegetarianism

In honor of Rav Aviner's recently published book "Tzimchonut – Vegetarianism" - which includes Maran Ha-Rav Kook's writings on the subject with punctuation and a brief commentary – we present the following Q&A from Ha-Rav's radio show.
[To order: http://www.havabooks.co.il/]
Question: Must one be a vegetarian according to Maran Ha-Rav Kook?
Answer: Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote in "Kovetz Tzimchonut Ve-Ha-Shalom" – "Vegetarianism and Peace" – that vegetarianism is a future vision. Its importance is true, but not for today. Why not for today? Because it is impossible to skip stages (in human development). Some vegetarians explain that they do not eat meat because it is compassionate to animals. Compassion toward animals is certainly important, but we first need compassion towards human beings, and we have not finished all of our obligations towards human beings. After we finish being merciful and righteous to human beings, we will move on to animals. We cannot skip stages. We are not criticizing those who are vegetarians. If a person wants to be a vegetarian, he may do so, but it is impossible to define it as a mitzvah or even as a stringency. Someone once asked me: I am a vegetarian and I have decided to stop. Do I need a "hatarat nedarim" (annulment of vows), since someone who performs a proper custom a few times and wants to stop must perform a "hatarat nedarim"? I said that there is no need for a "hatarat nedarim," since vegetarianism is not a mitzvah or stringency. It is a good, compassionate and a proper character trait for one who wishes, but it is before its time. An individual who desires to be a vegetarian is fine, but this cannot be – as Maran Ha-Rav Kook refers to it – a communal practice. Maran Ha-Rav Kook also warns in the same article that vegetarianism can actually be a hijacking of the feelings of compassion. This means that sometimes there are people who are cruel to other people, but because their divine souls cannot bear this cruelty, and need to be pacified , they say: we will be vegetarians and be compassionate to animals. In fact, there were Nazis in the concentration camps who were vegetarians and those who say that Hitler himself was a vegetarian!

Maran Ha-Rav Kook ate meat, as did our Rabbi, Rav Tzvi Yehudah Kook. In the letters of Maran Ha-Rav Kook, he wrote a letter to our Rabbi, when he was young and not eating meat, and asked: Why aren't you eating meat? You need to eat meat, it is not our level to refrain from doing so. You know that there are many cruel people in the world and many vegetarians who are cruel. Maran Ha-Rav further wrote: A Torah scholar, along with other things, needs to know how to slaughter animals. There are certainly Torah scholars who do not know how to slaughter, but it is good and proper. Please learn to slaughter (Igrot Re'eiyah vol. 3, letter 780). Then another letter (ibid. letter 784): Did you learn to slaughter? Another letter (ibid. letter 799): So, are you learning to slaughter? And finally a letter (ibid. 839): I am happy that you learned to slaughter. Now that you learned, you need to do so. So, did you slaughter yet (see letters 852, 853 and 860)? Maran Ha-Rav Kook pressured our Rabbi so that he did not possess an ideology that it was forbidden to slaughter or eat animals.

Not eating meat is a future vision. How do we reach this future? Slowly, in stages, through all sorts of Halachot which teach us that we need to respect animals, not to be cruel to animals, not to cause undue pain to animals, etc…

Downloading from the internet

Q: Is it permissible to download things from the internet for free when they are sold?
A: It is forbidden because of copyright laws. This is a decree of our Sages. A person who invests time and money to create something – a book, a program, a game, a song, etc… - it is his. He sells it to you but he still maintains ownership and you are not allowed to do whatever you want with it. Therefore, it is forbidden to copy it. In order for it to be permissible to copy, there are two conditions which must be met: it is permissible according to Halachah and it is permissible according to the law. In these matters, what the law prohibits is also prohibited by the Halachah whether in Israel or outside of Israel. In order for it to be permissible according to the Halachah, it has to be that the person would not buy it in any event: he does not have money, it does not interest him enough, etc… If this is so, if he copies it, the creator does not lose money – he would not have bought it anyway. These are obviously things which are within a person's heart. They also must be used only for personal use and not commercial use. According to the law as it now stands in Israel, it is forbidden to copy any electronic products. It is thus prohibited to download from the internet whether you would have bought it or not. You have to buy it. After all, this is the reason it is there.

Mourning for a secular Israeli

Q: Does one sit shiva for a secular Israeli?
A: It is true that we do not sit shiva for one who separates himself from the ways of the community (Rambam, Hilchot Avel 1:10 and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 345:5). The Rambam says (ibid.) that people who separate themselves from the community are "The people who cast off the yoke of the mitzvot from their necks and are not included among the community of Israel." And the Shulchan Aruch writes (ibid.): "They are like free people for themselves like the rest of the nations." This means that they are people who left the Nation of Israel and someone who leaves defines himself as an outsider. But Maran Ha-Rav Kook makes an important clarification in his article "Al Bamotenu Chalalim" (Ma'amrei Ha-Re'eiyah, p. 89). He discusses the exact same question about shiva for two members of the secular movement "Ha-Shomer" who were killed in the Galil. Maran Ha-Rav Kook said that secular Jews are not defined as those who separate from the ways of the community. The separation which appears in the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch is comprised of two parts: separation from Judaism and separation from the Nation of Israel. In the past, one went with the other, if one left the religion he left the Nation and he was outside. Maran Ha-Rav Kook says that today this is not so. Some people leave the religion but do not leave their connection to the Nation of Israel, and they display self-sacrifice for the Nation and are killed for the Nation as the members of the "Ha-Shomer" movement. Therefore, this law does not apply to them. As is known, in the language of Halachah, they are "Tinokot She-nishbu" (literally Jewish children captured and raise among non-Jews). The Rambam explains in Hilchot Mamrim (3:3) that a "tinok she-nishba" is a Jew who did not receive a proper Jewish upbringing and education. In simple words, they are confused. They do not separate themselves from the religion in order to destroy the Nation of Israel, they separate themselves because they do not know any better. The great authorities already ruled that these difficult halachot do not apply to secular Jews in our days, since they are "tinokot she-nishbu." This is also the opinion of the Chareidi authorities. For example, Nitei Gavriel (Hilchot Aveilut) quotes the Charedi authorities who rule that we do sit shiva for a "tinok she-nishba" - which is a secular Israeli today.

Bar mitzvah money

Q: When a bar mitzvah receives money for a present to whom does the money belong – the bar mitzvah or his parents?
A: From a halachic perspective, since the child is already bar mitzvah, the parents cannot take his money. Theoretically, the parents could say: We are not taking your money but we are not obligated to feed you, give you lodging, etc… According to the Torah, a parent is only obligated to provide for the child until the age of six and then he can go work, and the Chief Rabbinate made a ruling that it is until the age of fifteen. But even until the age of fifteen, a parent could give bread and a place to sleep. They are not obligated to do and to go beyond the letter of the law until people ask whether they can use ma'aser money for their children's education. We say that if you use ma'aser money to raise your kids there will be nothing left to give to others. Based on ethics, fairness and truth, this money should go to the parents after all the money they have spent. Therefore, if the parents are not lacking for money, what does it matter to give the money to the bar mitzvah boy and put it in an account for him. But if the parents are not in a great financial state and they spent a lot of money on the bar mitzvah, they can certainly say to him: "Our dear child, it is true that you receive the money, but we need the money. Don't worry, if you need money, we will give you as we have done up until now. We live together in this house and we work hard but we are lacking money. Therefore, you need to be a partner with us." This education not only pertains to the bar mitzvah money, but we must tell child that they are partners in the house: You are not the masters and we serve you. You need to help. This is the source of many arguments at home, but we should not give in on it. You must sit together when all is calm and tell them that they need to help. Give a list of household chores, and they can each choose a few. This should be the approach not only for the bar mitzvah presents but for all of their cooperation in caring for one another.

Our Rabbi and Eating - Part 2

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Our Rabbi's strength
During the weekdays our Rabbi would eat minimal amounts: An olive-size piece of bread or a baked good and a cup of tea. It was difficult to understand from where the strength flowed for all of the classes which he gave and for all of the lengthy discussions with students and other people who would arrive early at his door.

Despite the minimal amounts he ate, our Rabbi possessed exceptional physical strengthen.
On Simchat Torah, he would carry a heavy Sefer Torah for hours.

Even our Rabbi's pat on the back was sometimes very strong. He once related that Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz – the Divrei Chaim - would deliver his blessings to his chasidim with a pat on the back, and the stronger the pat, the greater the blessing would come into existence. A few days later, he blessed a student along with a light pat on the back. The student gently reminded him about his words about Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz. Our Rabbi listened, and gave him a powerful pat that made him fly two meters.

When our Rabbi returned to his house from Hadassah Hospital in the year 5733, he emphasized that he was returning to all of his stringencies and pious customs.

Eating on Shabbat
A student related: On Shabbat, it was impossible to see the table. Rabbi Yosef Bedichi ensured that the Shabbat meal would be like "Shlomo’s feast." I was stunned every time how Ha-Rav, without any effort, would finish every dish which Rabbi Yosef Bedichi prepared, while I needed great exertion to do so. Many times he would mention during the meal the words of the Midrash Tanchuma (Bereshit, 3) that one who delights on Shabbat is equivalent to one who fasts one hundred times (see Ha-Torah Ha-Go’elet of Rav Chaim Avihu Schwartz vol. 4, p. 211 #30). It appeared as if he was a different person on Shabbat, as if the nature of the body changed within him on account of the extra soul of Shabbat. And this man, who virtually fasted all week, would delight on Shabbat.

Once at a Shabbat evening meal, a guest ate at our Rabbi's table, and after eating the fish he was no longer hungry. When Rabbi Yosef Bedichi brought the soup, he did not eat it and pushed it a little to the side. Our Rabbi noticed this and asked the guest what happened, and he responded that he was not hungry. He said to him in surprise: "Do we eat on Shabbat because we are hungry? We eat on Shabbat in order to delight on Shabbat." He mentioned various times the words of the Gemara in Sanhedrin (101a), "All the days of a poor person are bad," including Shabbat and holidays. The Gemara explains that even though on Shabbat a poor person eats good meals he is nevertheless mired in bad, as Shmuel said, "Changing habit is the beginning of intestinal illness" (which Rashi explains: "’Changing habit’ - changing habit and eating more than one usually eats is the beginning of intestinal illness, therefore even on Shabbat and holidays is bad for him").

At Seudat Shelishit (the third meal of Shabbat), our Rabbi saw that one student was not eating and inquired as to the reason. The student answered: "I do not like this food." Our Rabbi said to him: "One needs to like all food."

On weekdays he would limit talking at meal time, and would finish quickly in order to be free from it. On Shabbat, however, he would lengthen it with Divrei Torah, stories of great Rabbis of Israel and delight in hearing zemirot (Shabbat songs).

Honor Her More than Yourself

It is not enough that you honor your wife – you must honor her more than you honor yourself. This is what our great rabbi, the Rambam, writes. But why? Aren't I equal to her?! No, while she is equal to you, she is different than you. She therefore has different needs from you and different areas of specialization. For example, it is possible that you are satisfied with two pairs of pants and four of the same shirts. But you have to understand that her needs are different. When she stands in front of a closet which is packed full of clothes and declares: "I have nothing to wear! I have to buy something" – you have to respect her feelings and understand that they come from a different emotional structure and different needs which you simply do not have. And this is true is many areas - you and her have different needs. You are equal, but different.

Shut SMS #9

Q: I received a tax return because of a gift. Am I obligated to give "ma'aser kesafim" from it?
A: Yes, this is also considered income.
Q: Under what conditions is it permissible to wear pants under a skirt?
A: The skirt must always be long enough (covering the knees even when sitting), the pants should be for women and modest so that they do not attract attention.
Q: Is a passion fruit considered to be a tree, and we must refrain from eating its fruit during the first three years when the tree begins giving fruit (orlah)?
A: There are those who are lenient and treat it like a vegetable (and therefore do not wait).
Q: Anyone who walks four amot (6 feet) in the Land of Israel has a portion in the World to Come – even a sinner?
A: A small portion.
Q: Is there a concept in the Torah of "the public's right to know"?
A: This is "lashon ha-ra" except in rare cases.
Q: Does a large scarf with four corner that one wraps on their head require tzitzit?
A: No, only when you wrap the clothing around your body.
Q: Is it permissible to wear shoes that have a Jewish star on the soul?
A: There is no problem, the Jewish star does not possess holiness.
Q: An Israeli reporter was wounded in a battle front outside of Israel. Is it permissible for him to be there for work?
A: It is permissible for a small risk, similar to hunting. Shut Noda Bi-Yehudah.
Q: I had a bad dream and I am bothered. What should I do?
A: There is no reason to worry. But if you are bothered recite the "Hatavat Chalom" (improvement of a dream) which is printed in the siddur before three friends. There is no need to relate the dream. If it is a woman, it should be before three women.
Q: I am on the bus and I do not have water to wash "netilat yadayim" to eat bread. Can I wrap the sandwich up in a bag and eat it?
A: No, but it is permissible in an extenuating circumstance to wrap something around your hands.
Q: And then should I recite the blessing for "netilat yadayim"?
A: No, you did not wash.
Q: Is it permissible to give directions to a Jew who is driving on Shabbat?
A: No, it is aiding one who is transgressing. You should politely avoid answering by saying that you do not know.
Q: Is it permissible for boys to grow long hair?
A: There are three Torah prohibitions: 1. An impediment between one's head and Tefillin, and it causes a blessing recited in vain when putting on Tefillin. 2. Following the ways of the non-Jews. 3. "Lo Tilbash" (the prohibition of men dressing or appearing as women).
Q: How does one immerse in a mikveh electric kitchen appliances which were made outside of Israel?
A: There are two possibilities: 1. Immerse them and dry them with a dryer. 2. Disassemble them into a state that they cannot be used and then reassemble.

Downloads

Question: Can a person take a soundtrack from a published CD and make their ownvideo with their own pictures and upload the resulting video on a site such as YouTube, Myspace or Facebook and call it an original production? Shouldn't the person give credit and get permission from the original person who made the soundtrack? Also, can a person take videos or pictures from other people and put them to an original soundtrack?
Answer: In both cases, permission is required from the artist.

Relating to Homosexuals

[Iturei Yerushalayim #28]

Question: I serve as a Rabbi outside of Israel and a distressed man came to me. His brother, who lives in our community, is "marrying" a man and he asked me how we should relate to the new couple. On the one hand, it seems that the personal and communal response should be unequivocal: this act is absolutely outside of all boundaries. On the other hand, if we leave the door open, perhaps he will return at a later period. What is Ha-Rav's advice?
Answer: We must differentiate between the communal relationship and the familial one. The Rabbi and the community must oppose this severe act against the Torah with all forcefulness in order to prevent its spread. After all, this is an abomination. Maran Ha-Rav Kook writes (Ain Ayah, Shabbat vol. 1, p. 148) on the story of the man who went to Hillel and Shammai: if we are discussing a spiritual malady which is already rooted among the Nation, it is impossible to fix it by force, rather it must be accomplished gradually and with patience. But if we are discussing a new malady which is bursting forth into our camp, we must stop it immediately and with all forcefulness, and admonish in a clear fashion. But family and friends must certainly remain close even with someone who strays from the proper path. After all, even for someone who commits a severe crime and goes to prison, family remains family and friends remain friends. We tell him: we are not giving you legitimacy, we are completely opposed to what you are doing and you know it, but we will always love you and our door is always open for you.

Question: Can the questioner allow his brother's partner to visit his house or should he ask his brother to come alone even though the brother may be insulted and not come at all?
Answer: They should discuss it together with him, so that it is done with love. They should explain that they simply ask of him to consider their feelings and not to bring his partner. They should clarify that just as they love him and consider his feelings; he should love them and should certainly be willing to consider their feelings. But if he says: "I am connected to him like a Siamese twin," we love him despite what we consider offensive, but we cannot provide him with any legitimacy.

Book Dedication Opportunities

Within the next year, Rav Aviner is set to publish many works in Hebrew on various topics.
You can be a partner in these projects by dedicating a book or part of a book in memory or in honor of someone (and payment can be made over time). Please be in touch with Rav Aviner or me if you are interested. Here is a list of the books:
1. Shut She'eilat Shlomo vol. 4 –
Q&A on subjects spanning all areas of Halachah

2. Commentary on the Siddur
This is the first of three volumes

3. Shemirat Ha-Lashon (Guarding One's Tongue)
Articles on permissible and forbidden speech

4. Musar Avicha
Commentary on Rav Kook's work

5. Tanchumim (Words of Comfort)
Short work on mourning and difficult times

6. Limrot Ha-Kol (Despite Everything)
Collection of children's stories with teaching points

Maran (our revered teacher) Rav Kook & Techelet

Question: What was Maran Ha-Rav Kook's attitude regarding Techelet?
Answer: When a Torah scholar, who wore Techelet on his Tzitzit, asked Maran Ha-Rav if he should also put Techelet on his Talit, he responded: "It is sufficient for you to have the Tzitzit with Techelet. Techelet on your Talit will be seen as casting dispersion on the earlier ones who did not put Techelet on their Tzitzit" (brought in "Sefer Ha-Techelet of Rav M. Bornstein, p. 192). "When Maran Ha-Rav saw that Ha-Rav David Cohain, Ha-Nazir, put Techelet on his Tzitzit, he said to him: You feel the lack of the Techelet on your Tzitzit and that you have a need for it? Ha-Nazir took this as a criticism and ceased putting on the Techelet. After a short time, Maran Ha-Rav came in a second time and said to him: Nu, nu, continue putting the Techelet on your Talit. Ha-Nazir however held fast to the first comment and refrained from doing so, and only put on the Techelet in private after the death of Maran Ha-Rav" (ibid., p. 188). I – the lowly one – heard the story in the following version: "When Maran Ha-Rav saw Ha-Nazir wearing Techelet on his Tzitzit, he rebuked him that he should not follow a path about which almost all the great Rabbis of Israel had reservations. Ha-Rav then entered his room and after a few minutes came out again and said to Ha-Nazir that there is nonetheless a place for this. Despite that this is not the path to be followed by the community, unique individuals may follow it, and since Ha-Nazir is unique and special, he could follow this special path."

Arab MKs

Rabbi Aviner in the News: Arab MKs
by Kobi Nahshoni
from 19 Shevat 5769

A prominent Zionist rabbi ruled this week that according to the Halacha, a non-Jew cannot serve as a Knesset member in the State of Israel, even if the public agrees to it. "This is irrelevant," said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, "This is a Jewish state and Jews are the ones leading the Jewish state." [Rav] Aviner was asked on his weblog whether the election of non-Jews to parliament does not undermine the government's authority, and "is it even allowed for non-Jews to be part of the Jewish state's leadership?"

The rabbi replied that this was indeed against a halachic ruling issued by Maimonides, and that although later there were those who sought to allow it "if the nation agrees to it," Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook ruled this out as an "irrelevant" consideration. According to [Rav] Aviner, the present situation in Israel was undesirable, but added that since the Arab minority had no real influence on Israel's affairs, things were not so bad. However, "If they become the deciding factor and create the majority – this is blasphemy." The Rabbi concluded: "Still, we are very happy to have our own state, even if some of the Knesset members are not Jewish. This is a million times better than being ruled by the Brits or the Turks."

Davening on a bus

Q: Is it permissible to daven on a bus while seated?
A: It is clear that a bus is not a great place to daven, and it is difficult to concentrate on a bus. Sitting is also not appropriate, since one needs to pray as if standing before a king. But we must differentiate between when there is a choice and when there is no choice. If a person is on a bus for some reason and he will miss davening since he will arrive too late then it is preferable to daven on the bus. If it is possible to stand – he stood stand; if it is impossible – he should sit. But if there is a choice then he should certainly daven in the proper frame of mind in an appropriate place (Shut Be'er Moshe 3:14).

Parking in the mall parking lot

Q: Is it permissible for me to park in the free mall parking lot and visit a friend who lives close to the mall or am I stealing by using their parking?
A: It is a problem, since the parking lot is for a certain purpose and you are using it for another purpose. While this is not explicitly written in any place, it is clearly the intention.
Q: If I buy a drink in the mall, can I leave my car in the parking lot for two hours to visit a friend?
A: Everything must be done based on what we understand to be the intention. This means that if the parking lot is empty and you bought a drink, it does not matter to them if you stay. But if the parking lot is crowded then their intention is not that the cost of the drink buys you parking there for a long period of time.

Amount of children

Q: We have two boys and two girls. I want to continue to grow the family, but my wife does not. What is Ha-Rav's advice?
A: After you have a boy and girl, one should continue to have children as it says: "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand" (Kohelet 11:6 and Yevamot 62b). But we are not told how many children to have. The guiding principle is to have the most children possible based on one's ability – one's physical ability, one's emotion ability and one's financial ability. One's ability is a personal decision. You cannot force your wife insofar she would like more children but is unable. This reminds me of the words of the Mesech Chochma on the mitzvah of "Be fruitful and multiply" (Bereshit 9:7). As is known, women are not obligated in this mitzvah. This is a wonder – how can a man have children alone? The Mesech Chochma explains that women are not obligated since sometimes pregnancy is quite difficult, and childbirth is difficult and taking care of a baby all of the time is difficult and the Torah does not force someone to do something which may sometimes be beyond his ability. But if Hashem does not command women to have children, how will children come into the world? Hashem also implanted a desire for children within women as we see with Rachel: "Give me children or I will die" (Bereshit 30a). Therefore, a woman has children because of her desire. There is a balance between the desire and the difficulties, and a woman navigates between them. This appears in the Torah not when Hashem commands Adam: "Be Fruitful and multiply" (Bereshit 1:28), but after the flood when he commands Noach: "Be fruitful and multiply." The first command was before the curse of "You shall bear children in pain" (Bereshit 3:16) and there was therefore no reason to be lenient. But now there is the difficulty of the curse. I therefore recommend not to pressure your wife and let her decide on her own.

Our Rabbi and Eating

Our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook

Eating minimal amounts
In response to one Rabbi who said that Maran Ha-Rav Kook abstained from eating in an exaggerated manner, our Rabbi said: He did not abstain, but there are people who do not need a lot (see Even Shlomo chap. 2).

Our Rabbi was not interested in eating, and he only ate for health reasons. He ate foods which were praised in the Gemara such as olives, eggs, or honey, and no other food besides these entered his mouth. When the doctors instructed him to eat particular foods, he strictly fulfilled their instructions. In connection to this, he related the words of a doctor in Europe, who said that among hundreds of ill people whom they treated, only one precisely followed his instructions: Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, and it appeared that he was the only one who truly wanted to be cured. An example of our Rabbi's disinterest in eating: Our Rabbi once separated the tag with the name of the bakery from the bread in order to throw it out, but he put it in his mouth. When a student pointed this out, he removed it from his mouth and said in seriousness: "This is what happens when we do not pay attention, we need to pay attention when we eat." He then praised one Rabbi who was surprised one day why the sugar cube which he would suck while drinking tea during his learning was not melting like usual. When they checked, they found that he was sucking a button that fell off his clothing without his noticing. (Ha-Rav Yosef Kelner. See Sefer Chasidim 569 and Makor Chesed ibid., Magid Meisharim p. 50 and Even Shlomo, p. 32)

It once happened that a student came to take counsel with our Rabbi who was sitting in the library after morning prayers. Our Rabbi said to him: "You already ate morning bread?" The student responded: "I’ll eat afterwards." Our Rabbi said: "No, morning bread comes first, as is written in the Gemara" (Baba Metzia 107b). The student asked: "And what about the honorable Rav himself?!" Our Rabbi responded: "Blessed is Hashem, I am not yet enslaved to the routine of eating."

Our Rabbi said: There are those who call "morning bread" (Pat Shacharit) - about which he was very particular – "Aruchat Ha-Boker" (breakfast), and it is possible that the word "Aruchah" (meal) derived from the word "Orchim" (guests), to teach you that in relation to food we should be guests and not permanent residents. (Kinyan torah of Rav Yosef Elnakveh vol. 2, p. 74)

When he was informed that one student was eating extremely minimal amounts, he said to him: "Every person must eat in a normal manner in the amount which he requires."

Our Rabbi would sometimes eat breakfast in the afternoon. Sometimes after Yom Kippur he would only drink a little and delay a long time until eating. If it were not for the students who worried about his meals, our Rabbi would hardly eat anything. They would bring him breakfast but he would not always eat it, even though he was particular about safeguarding the body. His mother, Ha-Rabbanit, would sometimes point out to him during the late hours of the night that he should eat something.

Our Rabbi had the custom to fast on his father's yahrtzeit. After one yahrtzeit, the students arrived for a class a few hours after dark and our Rabbi still had not davened ma'ariv since he was waiting for a minyan and he had not eaten. They davened and they suggested to our Rabbi that he eat before the class since he had not eaten anything all day. Our Rabbi rejected the idea: I am not enslaved to food. They said: Then only a cup of tea? He again completely rejected the idea: I am not enslaved to food! None of the pleas helped, and the class went on as usual into the night.

Who won the Israeli Elections?

[from Ha-Rav's video blog]

The answer is simple: The Nation, because all of the political parties are good. They all love the Nation of Israel. They all love the Land of Israel. They all love the State of Israel. And they all love the spirit of Israel. But no one possesses all of the truth, all of the justice and all of the integrity. Hashem, in His kindness for His Nation, spread the talents and good qualities among the entire Nation of Israel and among all of the political parties. Everyone is required to find which party has the most positives and the least negatives. No one can claim that his party has it all. And if someone thinks that his party does have it all, he is dangerously close to "Sinat Chinam – baseless hatred." "Sinat Chinam" is hating for no reason. Then why does he hate? He hates anything which is different. It is forbidden to be different. "Everyone is obligated to be exactly like me. And anyone who is not exactly like me is an enemy of the Nation." Not true! We are all important. And I will remind you who established the State of Israel – it was the Nation. And who was victorious in the War of Independence – it was the Nation. And who was victorious in all of the wars – it was the Nation. And who built up the Land and transformed it from desolation into a garden of Hashem – it was the Nation. And who absorbed all of the exiles – it was the Nation. And who strengthened the economy- it was the Nation. And who returned the Torah to the Land of Israel – it was the Nation. Everything was done by the entire Nation. Our party is the Nation. If only we could establish one party of all of the Jews from one extreme to another! In the meantime, it is not possible and there are different parties with different opinions. But do not forget: we are one Nation and all of the parties must act with respect towards one another, with love towards one another and with the recognition that we need one another. Then, we will have "Ahavat Chinam – baseless love." "Fortunate is the Nation for whom this is so" (Tehillim 144:15).

Precedence in Hitching-A-Ride (Trempim)

[Shut She’eilat Shlomo vol. 2, #436]
Responses of Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Shilt"a, Chief Rabbi of Israel

1. Question: If there is room in the vehicle, is there a obligation to take someone who is standing in the hitchhiking waiting area becauset of "Midat Sedom" (conduct of the people of Sedom) of "One benefits while the other does not suffer" or is it pious behavior?
Ha-Rav: This is a full mitzvah. And the non-fulfillment is worse than "Midat Sedom" since in the case of "Midat Sedom" there is the possibility that this person can fulfill his need in an alternative way, but here he has no other possibilities, and he needs this kindness.

2. Question: Regarding who gets the ride, do we apply the principle "the first who comes merits" or are there other principles of precedence?
Ha-Rav: There are other general principles. For example, one should take the passenger who is traveling the farthest distance, and not one who needs to get out in the middle of the trip.

3. Question: If so, must I take one who lives farther away, like in Shiloh, before someone who lives in my settlement, Beit El?
Ha-Rav: The residents of Beit El take precedence in all cases since "The poor of your city take precedence."

4. Question: Are the two settlements of Beit El (alef and bet) considered as two settlements or like one settlement regarding the issue "The poor of your city take precedence."
Ha-Rav: In general, they are considered two settlements. Regarding this issue of hitchhiking, however, they are like one settlement since the trip takes the same road.

5. Question: Does a Torah scholar take precedence? Does a woman take precedence?
Ha-Rav: A Torah scholar and a woman take precedence. A woman takes precedence over a Torah scholar.

6. Question: Does a Cohain and Levi take precedence?
Ha-Rav: They do not customarily take precedence in these matters.

7. Question: There are young men who cut in a line of children who are before them with the claim that they are kids and they can wait.
Ha-Rav: There is absolutely no justification for this behavior. A child is like everyone else in this matter.

Shut SMS #8

Q: There are Torah scholars whom I greatly respected. When I became close to them, my level of respect dropped after seeing their weaknesses. How do I get that level of respect back?
A: They are not completely angels, but close to angels in relation to this generation. Ha-Arizal said to Ha-Rav Chaim Vital that he should not be too distressed over his deficiencies, because in this generation it is difficult to be a righteous person, while the earlier generation was on a much higher level. The same applies all the more so to us and our generation.
Q: Regarding the same issue, during the expulsion from Gush Katif, there were some Rabbis who ridiculed others and this was very damaging in my eyes.
A: Same as above. It is not easy to be a complete angel.
Q: If someone insults me and yells at me, is it permissible for me to response in kind or should I keep quiet?
A: It is permissible to respond but it is preferable to ignore it. Sefer Ha-Chinuch 338.
Q: What is the blessing for coconut milk?
A: "She-ha-kol."
Q: Why do I have to save myself for marriage. In the meantime, I spend my life sinning. Why can't I be with my girlfriend, which would save me from the internet, clubs, etc…?
A: This happens when one is defeated in a battle. The greatest tragedy is when one is defeated without a battle and gives legitimacy to evil. Be strong and courageous.
Q: Is it permissible to do "netilat yadayim" with a disposal plastic or paper cup?
A: Some are strict, because it is disposal and therefore is not considered a vessel. But the basic Halachah is that it is permissible since it can in fact be used many times.
Q: Is there a way to give the benefit of the doubt to people who learn Torah full-time and do not say the "korbanot" (sacrifices) in the davening?
A: It is not obligatory (Chidah in Yosef Ometz), for learning Torah has the same effect of granting atonement (Chikrei Lev).
Q: It is a good idea to buy a new outfit to honor the Messiah and not wear it until he arrives – or is it a waste?
A: Give the money to the poor – it will help actualize the coming of the Messiah.
Q: Does a nursery school require a mezuzah and should it be affixed with a blessing?
A: Yes. The teachers eat there.
Q: Does an Ashkenazic Jew fulfill the mitzvah of Tefillin with Sefardic Tefillin?
A: Yes. But from the outset one should always follow the customs of their ancestor.
Q: Am I obligated to make up Psalms from Pesukei De-Zimra which I skipped when I was hurrying?
A: You are not obligated, but it is certainly appropriate.
Q: I dreamed that a good friend died. What does it mean? What should I do?
A: It does not mean anything; it happens to everyone and there is no reason to worry. If you are concerned, recite the "Hatavat Chalom" (improvement of a dream) which is printed in the siddur before three friends.
Q: Should a soldier wear his tzitzit out?
A: Certainly, as the Halachah requires. The soldiers of Bar Cochba also wore Tefillin.
Q: I said something positive about someone which caused someone else to say something negative. How do I fix it?
A: Fix the impression among those who are listening.

Jealousy

[A talk given in the yeshiva during lunch]

Question: How does one overcome feelings of jealousy?
Answer: The solution is faith in Hashem. First of all, Hashem gives to each person exactly what he needs – no more and no less. After all, we believe that Hashem is omnipotent. Furthermore, Hashem is good. He is good to all and His mercies extend to all of His creations (Tehillim 145:9). If He does not give something to you, it is a sign that it is not good for you. Therefore, you do not need to be jealous that your friend is wealthy and you are poor, your friend succeeds in learning Torah and you have trouble, your friend is married and you are still single, your friend has weak urges and you have strong ones, etc… This is exactly how Hashem arranged it. Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov were extremely wealthy, while the prophets Eliyahu and Elisha were incredibly poor. Rabbi Avraham ben Ha-Rambam writes in the book "Ha-Maspik Le-Ovdei Hashem" (Sha'ar Ha-Perishut) that they were so poor that they did not know if they could get married because they had no money to buy any kind of housing or food. This is the way it was meant to be according to Divine directive. The reign of one's kingship does not impede on another's kingship (Berachot 48b and other places). You have received the best conditions in which to serve Hashem. The Rambam in "Moreh Nevuchim" wrote that the angels are greater than us and there is no need for us to be jealous of them. You can serve Hashem even if you are not an angel. A person should not say: Either I am the Chief of Staff or I am not serving in Tzahal. Each and every soldier has a role to play. One does not say: Either I will be a great Torah scholar or I will not learn Torah. Not true – "every man at his camp and every man at his banner" (Bamidbar 1:52). Each person receives his role. Therefore, everyone needs to be happy with his roles because he is needed there. Every person should say: The world was created for me. This part of serving Hashem and this part in the Nation of Israel is mine and no one can take it from me. Therefore, I do not need to be jealous of anyone and I should be happy with my lot. I am happy with my physical lot (Pirkei Avot 4:1) and I am happy with my spiritual lot (Pirkei Avot 6:6).

Shehechiyanu on Dried Fruit

Question: If one has not had a dried fruit in a long time, does one need to make a shehechiyanu? Or is sheyechiyanu only for fresh fruit?
Answer: Rav Aviner answered this question on his radio show last week that Shehechiyanu is only recited for fresh fruit since dried fruit are available all year round. Shehechiyanu is only recited for fruit limited to certain times of the year (See Rama, Orach Chaim 225:6 and Mishnah Berurah #18).
Tu Bishvat Sameach!

Shehechiyanu on voting for the first time in Israel

Question: I have heard Ha-Rav tell the story that the Chazon Ish was asked: Should one vote in the Israeli elections? He answered: It is a mitzvah. They asked him: A mitzvah like matzah? He said: No, a mitzvah like maror. And Ha-Rav says that it is indeed a mitzvah like matzah since we have independence and our own State. Is it a mitzvah to the extent that someone who votes for the first time in Israeli should recite a Shehechiyanu (since Maran Ha-Rav Kook ruled that one should recite Shehechiyanu the first time he performs a mitzvah – Shut Orach Mishpat, pp. 268-269 and see Sefer Chayei Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 117-119, Sefer Moadim Ha-Re’eiyah pp. 215-217 and Likutei Ha-Re’eiyah vol. 2, p. 140)?
Answer: One should not recite Shehechiyanu for two reasons: 1. We do not recite a blessing on an act which is a quasi-mitzvah. The State of Israel is not the fulfillment of establishing the Kingdom of Israel, but rather a quasi-Kingdom of Israel, as stated by Maran Ha-Rav Kook in Shut Mishpat Cohain (p. 338). 2. No one performs the entire mitzvah by voting but only a part of the mitzvah which is similar to building the Temple.

Dried Figs

Question: I heard that a Rabbi said that it is forbidden to eat dried figs because of the bugs. What is Ha-Rav’s opinion? If it is permissible, how should one check them?
Answer: It is permissible. Check them very well. See all of the details on the Kashrut website of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

A man with an unpleasant odor

Q: I know a man who consistently has an unpleasant odor. I bump into him quite often. What can I do?
A: You should send him an anonymous letter, one that is not insulting. You should say that we love you and blame yourself. For example: I am not blaming you but I am very sensitive and it causes me distress. It is possible that there are others like me – perhaps we are overly sensitive – but we think you should be careful to bathe, change clothing and use deodorant which will really help. Obviously, when he receives the letter he will be hurt, but in the end you are performing a kindness for him.

Organ Donation to Arabs in Israel

Q: It is well-known that Ha-Rav supports organ donation. I feel uncomfortable with the idea that my organs may go to an Arab. Is there a problem with the organs being donated to an Arab?
A: You are correct that according to the procedures used in organ donation, a person cannot make a condition that his organs go to Jews and not non-Jews. There are two answers to your question: 1. In a best case scenario, a person can donate seven organs and it is possible that one would go to an Arab. This is like a tax: in order for six organs to save Jews, you also give one to an Arab. 2. The pool of organs donor is all encompassing. This means that non-Jews donate to us, including non-Jews from other countries. As a result, when I donate to an American in America, Jews will always receive organs, since we are in the pool and they will donate to us. There are countries who say: If you do not donate to us, we will not donate to you. Currently in Israel, the Arabs donate to us. They donate a lot. The two largest groups of donors in Israel are the Jews who made aliyah from Russia, apparently because they do not have extraneous mystical outlooks such as what will be with the body at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead, etc… and the Arabs for reasons which I do not know. If we say that we will not donate to the Arabs, they will say tomorrow that they will not donate to us. Therefore, when I donate to Arabs, in the end, I donate to Jews.
Q: This is an intellectual answer, but what about the emotion. What would Ha-Rav say regarding the fact that I am uncomfortable to give to an Arab?
A: It is the same answer but it must be said with emotion. Look, I remember a young man who died and he donated his organs and there was a woman who received his kidneys. The doctors told his parents: if he had not donated she would have died and he saved her at the last moment. What a miracle! One of his organs also went to a non-Jew and people ridiculed him but the parents were happy that he saved a Jewish woman. This is a true story. This is the same answer but with feeling. We can also say – don’t you care about Jewish lives?! Don't you know that a 1000 Jews are waiting for a transplant and they will die without it. Put yourself in their place or it's your sister or daughter, and someone does not want to give because an Arab will receive too. Same answer with feeling!

Mentioned on Hirhurim!

Rav Aviner's post on "Davening without bothering others" was picked up by Hirhurim!

Elections and honoring father and mother

Q: Must a child obey his parents if they ask him to vote for a certain political party?
A: No. ‘Honoring one's parents’ applies only when an act directly relates to one's parents. Honoring one's parents is giving them something to eat and drink, clothing them, covering them, and transporting them (Kiddushin 31b and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 240:4). If something relates to the child's private life – what he eats, what he wears, where he lives, etc… - this is his own business. This is also the case with if one wants to vote right, left or center – it is his life. Honoring one's parent is related to caring for them.

Long Pe'ot

Q: What is the source for the custom of having long pe'ot?
A: First of all, it is similar to every mitzvah in which it is possible to be strict. May a blessing come upon one who is strict. There is an innovation in growing long pe'ot because usually having a stricture of quantity (having longer tzitzit, etc…) is for positive mitzvot and this is a negative mitzvot. We do not have other such examples. The commentators on the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah, chap. 181) discuss the issue of long pe'ot, insofar as some authorities raise an issue based on the words of the Arizal that one should not mix the pe'ot of one's head with the pe'ot of one's beard (the five places it is forbidden to cut on one's beard). These are different mitzvot and represent different mystic lights. Therefore, when one's pe'ot reach one's beard, he should trim them. This is why Chabad Chasidim have short peyot. It thus appears that long pe'ot are a disadvantage, not according to the Halachah but according to the mystical teachings of the Arizal. There are authorities who do justify this custom together with the teaching of the Arizal. For example, see Shut Mishneh Halachot of Ha-Rav Menashe Klein (4:116, 5:124, 6:149) who wrote that it is explicitly written in the Shulchan Aruch that one should not touch his pe'ot, that we do not find anywhere any prohibition to let them grow, and that it is known that Rabbi Akiva Eiger would not even brush his pe'ot. By the way, it seems that a cohain in the Temple may not have long pe'ot since the Halachah says that it is forbidden for a cohain to be unkempt with long hair. What is long hair? Hair which has not be cut for 30 days. There is no problem for them to have a long beard, just long pe'ot. Therefore, when the Temple is rebuilt – may it be speedily in our days – cohanim will have short pe'ot.

Shut SMS #7

Q: Is it permissible to bake cookies with notes inside or is the ink not kosher?
A: It is permissible. The ink is kosher, since it is inedible and nullified within the cookie.
Q: Is it permissible to read the Haftarah on Shabbat from a transliterated text?
A: Yes, it is like reading it by heart.
Q: Are the people in the group "Peace Now" considered traitors?
A: They are considered confused.
Q: I have heard that it is forbidden to sleep alone in a house. This often happens to me. What should I do?
A: It is permissible if there is a mezuzah and light.
Q: If a woman feels a need can she put on Tefillin?
A: No, it is "yuhara" (religious arrogance), she should fulfill her obligations.
Q: We are getting married. My name is Chaim and my finance's name is Einat. Can you suggest a fitting verse to put on our invitation?
A: It is best not to put a verse on the invitation because it is forbidden to throw a verse in the garbage, and this is what happens most of the time when people receive invitations.
Q: Is there an explicit prohibition from avoiding taxes?
A: It is theft. Shut "Yechaveh Da'at" of Rav Ovadiah Yosef.
Q: If doctors define a person as a "vegetable," is it permissible for his wife to remarry?
A: No, he is not considered dead according to Halachah, because part of his brain is still alive.
Q: If we know the gender of our fetus, are we obligated to hide it?
A: No. It is a personal decision.
Q: Is it permissible to curse the extreme left in Israel?
A: G-d forbid!
Q: There is a growing problem of stray cats and dogs in Israel and they are often killed by starvation or car accidents. Is it permissible to spay them?
A: No, but it is permissible to place traps of food which contain ingredients which prevent pregnancy.
Q: Is there something special to hanging pictures of Rabbis in one's home?
A: Yes, "Let your eyes behold your teacher" (Yeshayahu 30:20).
Q: Two years ago I completely broke off connect with someone who was a good friend. I decided that I did not want any relationship with her or her family. Is it permissible not to answer the phone if someone from her family calls?
A: The important thing is that you act with politeness and thoughtfulness.

I Don't Feel Anything toward Her

Question: I have met with a woman for the purpose of getting married, and she seems like a good match: she has good character traits, but I do not feel anything towards her. I have met other woman for this same purpose and have felt something. What should I do?
Answer: Theoretically, a lack of feeling is not a problem. The feeling of love will appear later. We must understand that the feeling of love before marriage and the feeling of love after marriage are different types. In fact, the Torah relates that Yitzchak loved Rivka only after marriage. But in reality, we do not act this way, as we are not angels and this is a dangerous risk. After all, even when there is love between a couple, difficulties arise. The desire to live together as husband and wife is therefore essential, and it greatly aids in creating upright offspring. We therefore do not take this risk. The essence is not to exaggerate and demand a burning love at every single moment, but there is a need to have a desire to build a life together. On this foundation, it is possible to beginning to build a deep connection together.

Ten Commandments for Hitching a Ride

[from parashah sheet "Maayanei Ha-Yeshua" – Parashah Behaalotecha 5768]

It is popular in Israel for Jews to give each other rides, especially in places where buses run infrequently. These rules are for this situation and NOT for outside of Israel when one should NOT hitchhike. This text is to show what is occurring in Israel and proper behavior which can be applied to many situations (While this list was created with young adults in mind, much of it would apply to anyone).

1. Precedence
Even if you are first in line, fulfill the mitzvah of kindness and let a woman with kids, a pregnant woman, an elderly person or a Torah scholar go first. Do not say: What about me? Don't worry, your turn will come and it is always best to have a good heart.

2. A Secure Ride
Do not get into a car unless you are one hundred percent certain that the driver is not an Arab. Remember: There have already been horrible cases, one in particular, in which an Arab dressed as a Jew with a beard and kippah killed a Jew. And if you are a woman, it is not enough that the driver is a Jew; you must be certain that the driver is trustworthy. Only travel with someone you know to be trustworthy or a man who is traveling with his wife or a similar situation.

3. Modesty
If it is a driver of the opposite sex, sit in the back seat if there is room. If a person of the opposite sex is sitting in the back seat already, it is okay. If there are two sitting in the back, do not enter and squeeze them.

4. Manners
Do not ask the driver: where are you going? This is not your business. Rather you should tell him where you need to go. You certainly should not ask the driver to charge his course for you. If he suggests it on his own – great.

5. Burdening Others
You should seriously consider whether you should hitch rides and benefit from others. We are not beggars who “sponge” off other people. Therefore, take money with you and travel by bus. Only take a ride if you are in a place where there is no public transportation or you have to wait for a long time.

6. Honoring Parents
If your parents are against you hitching a ride – do not hitch. After all, they are the one who give you the travel expenses. Even though you are already an adult and according to the basic Halachah you are not obligated to be just like them in thought and deed, the halachic authorities say that in unimportant matters you should give in to them, acting beyond the letter of the law. And why is this? Because they do many things beyond the letter of the law for you which are not required according to the Halachah, because they are concerned about you. Therefore, do not be stingy and ungrateful to only do for them what you are obligated to do, but act beyond the letter of the law. When you are independent and live on your own, you can act as you wish.

7. Sit quietly
Do not talk with a friend during the trip, if it disturbs the driver. He may want quiet during the trip. Do not even talk in a whisper. Similarly, do not talk on your cell phone, as it will disturb the driver. If you must talk, and it is really necessary, ask the driver for permission and speak briefly and quietly.

8. Cleanliness
Do not make a mess - I am embarrassed that I even have to mention this. Do not bang on the door, it can break – I am also embarrassed that I have to mention this. Obviously do not smoke, do not even ask the driver for permission.

9. Do not make comments
If the driver is driving erratically, do not make any comments. It is your problem that you took a ride with him. It is obviously not okay, but he did not appoint you to be responsible for giving him proper instruction. He permitted you to enter his car which is like his house, and not to get involved with his private life. If he is driving dangerously get out in the middle of the trip and give some reason without insulting him, such as a change in plan.

10. Thank You
When you enter say "thank you" with a smile. And say "thank you" when you get out as well. You do not have to say "Tizkeh Le-Mitzvot – May you merit performing other mitzvot." You can say it like a normal person: "Thank you very much."

Cohanim and Kivrei Tzaddikim (the graves of the righteous)

Our Rabbi told the following story about Maran Ha-Rav Kook (Le-Shelosha Ba-Elul vol.1 #76), that during his travels to oversee Jewish matters in the Galil, he did not visit Kivrei Tzadkim when he was in Tzefat, because he was a Cohain.

Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu wrote (Parashah Sheet "Kol Tzofa’ich #279), "In his time, I told Ha-Rav Ha-Gaon Tzvi Yehudah Ha-Cohain Kook, peace be upon him, that it is written in the book ‘Kuntres Yechi’eli’ that it is permissible for cohanim to enter Kever Rachel. He asked me: what do they say there? I said that they read the verses about our mother Rachel there. He travelled there, but only went as far as the door. When he returned, I asked him: why didn’t you enter? He answered: My father did not enter, therefore I did not enter."

In the book Sichot Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah - Eretz Yisrael (edited by Rav Shlomo Aviner, p. 142 note 1), it relates that after the Six-Day War, the students of our Rabbi organized a trip to the liberated areas in the Shomron. One of the places they visted was Kever Yosef. The students entered inside, but our Rabbi remained outside, because he was a cohain.
And on Maran Ha-Rav Kook's yahrtzeit, our Rabbi, Ha-Rav Tzvi Yehudah, would visit his grave on the Mt. of Olives, but would stand at a distance since he was a cohain (Be-Derech Ha-Torah Ha-Goelet, p. 170).

In Iturei Cohanim (Sivan 5766 #261), Rav Aviner was asked, is it permissible for a cohain to enter Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah? He answered that there is a dispute, but Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not enter. Similarly, in the weekly parashah sheet "Olam Katan" (#169), Rav Aviner was asked, is it permissible for a cohain to enter Ma’arat Ha-Machpelah to recite Selichot? He answered that there is a dispute, but Maran Ha-Rav Kook did not enter. In Shut She’eilat Shlomo (vol. 3 #329), Rav Aviner also writes that although there are authorities who permit cohanim to enter "Kivrei Tzaddikim," since the righteous are called "living even in their death," the accepted halachah is that it is forbidden. There are also authorities who allow cohanim to visit Maarat Ha-Machpelah and Kever Rachel, because they were built in a way that the cohanim would not become impure; but the acceptable halachah for this is also that it is forbidden. Therefore, we say that cohanim should not enter "Kivrei Tzaddikim," but we can defend the practice of those who act in this way, especially entering Maarat Ha-Machpelah and Kever Rachel.

In the book "Ke-Chitzim Be-Yad Giborim" (vol. 3, p. 108), Ha-Rav Avi Ronski, the current Chief Rabbi of Tzahal, was asked: is it permissible for a soldier who is a cohain to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah for a tour in order to learn about the place in the event of a terrorist attack and his unit is required to take action? Rav Ronski answers that it is permissible for three reasons: 1. It is obvious and clear that the security apparatus that would be sent on such a mission must train for it properly. 2. In general, it is not clear that the graves of our forefathers are directly located under the floor of the prayer halls, and even if they are located there, it is possible that the impurity does not break out and spread upward since it is possible that there are hollow spaces larger than a "tefach" (handbreath – 7.6 cm-9.6 cm) which separate between the floor and the graves. 3. There are Rishonim (Rabbis of the Middle Ages) who ruled that the graves of the righteous do not cause impurity, and Ha-Rav Mordechai Eliyahu permits cohanim to enter Ma'arat Ha-Machpelah and Kever Rachel. Even though the majority of authorities prohibit entering, it is possible to add this lenient opinion to the other reasons to permit it. Rav Aviner writes in his comments to this book that it is important to know that the first reason is the main one, and the second and third reasons are only additional minority positions which can be added to permit it. And we must point this out so that people do not learn that there is a blanket permission to enter.

Note: Rav Aviner – who is also a cohain – has not and does not visit any of the "Kivrei Tzaddikim."

How to Daven without Bothering Others

If you are the one leading the davening
Do not daven slower or faster than what is acceptable. Do not place "a burden on the congregation." If you daven too slowly you will cause others who have to go to work to leave before the end of the davening, and you will delay the next minyan from starting on time. If the someone davens too quickly, do not admonish him in the middle of the davening and embarrass him. Talk to him as a friend after davening. If speaking to him gently does not work, do not ask him to lead the davening.

Shul is not an opera house
Use the accepted tunes of the community. Do not use tunes with which the community is not comfortable. This causes the community distress, besides the halachic question involved in acting this way. If the person leading the davening acts differently than the accepted practice, please do not embarrass him, as we said above. If you ask your guest to lead the davening, advise him of what is expected of him in order to prevent unpleasantness. guest to lead the davening, advise him of what is expected of him in order to prevent unpleasantness.

Shul is not a day care center
Do not bring young children who cannot remain quiet. It is permissible to bring a quiet child. If he begins to make noise please take him out immediately, even in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei, and especially in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei.

Shul is not a club house
Please take an urgent conversation outside, and "Hashem, the Beneficent One, will forgive." If you talk inside and disturb others who are davening, however, it is not certain that they will forgive you. If the conversation cannot be delayed and it is impossible to take it outside, please whisper and "Hashem, the Beneficent One, will forgive."

Shul is not a carpenter's workshop
Close chairs and folding shtenders quietly without banging them.

Shul is not a place to create work for others
Please return siddurim to their places. The Gaba'im are not your slaves,
Shul is not a welfare office
Pay your dues and donations, and do not perform mitzvot with money that does not belong to you.

Shul is not a Chasidic Rebbe's court
Do not make a long "Mi She-beirach," no one listen. A blessing will come to someone who is strict to forgo a "Mi She-beirach." Donate money when you receive an aliyah, and I promise you that the Master of the Universe will bless you even without the Gabbai's announcement.

Shul is not a "Shteibel" (one's personal shul)
If you are late, repent. Do not organize a private repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei which prevents others from leaving and places a "burden on the community."

Shul is not an election rally
Do not shout out "Yasher Koach" to people who receive an aliyah or led the davening. They will be happier to receive a personal "Yasher Koach" with a smile.

Shul is not Hyde Park in London
Try, as much as possible, to hang announcements on the bulletin board.

The Netilat Yadayim room is not a club house for Cohanim and Levi’im
Conversation and the usual "jokes" are usually at the expense of the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei and others people's ability to concentrate.

The Silent Shemoneh Esrei is exactly that: Silent. Our Sages said that one should not daven the Shemoneh Esrei out loud in the presence of others, since a person is not permitted to increase his own concentration at the expense of another person's concentration. Do not clap your hand in the middle of the Shemoneh Esrei "to expel external distractions." Ask Mekubalim (mystics) how to attain this result without making noise.

If you see a new face in shul
Smile at him, extend a handshake and greet him. The usual crowd in shul should also be viewed as a new face.

If you have an obligation to lead the davening, forgo it
The merit of forgoing it will benefit the ascension of the soul of the deceased even more than the merit of prayer.

A Torah class is not less important than a concert
Do not walk in late and do not leave until it is over.

If you are looking for challenges in mitzvot between one person and another – come to shul. If you are looking for challenges in mitzvot between a person and Hashem, fulfill these mitzvot between one person and another. They are also the will of Hashem.